2nd Annual Lenten Workshop

On Saturday, April 1st, parishioners from several Orthodox churches in Stark and Summit Counties of Ohio gathered at St. George Serbian Orthodox Church for the 2nd annual Lenten workshop, sponsored by the parish’s women’s auxiliary group – the Circle of Serbian Sisters. This year’s theme was “Fasting in the Fast Food Nation”.

Participants began gathering around 9:30am, enjoying fellowship over a light, Lenten breakfast.  The workshop began at 10am, with a discussion that offered a great deal of back-and-forth between the facilitator, Rev Presbyter Aleksa Pavichevich, and all those present.

The group started by discussing their experience with, and understanding of, fasting during their formative years. The group had a diverse experience with the fasting discipline, with some mentioning a strict fast that was related entirely to communion, while others grew up in non-Orthodox traditions where fasting was a completely foreign concept.

Fr Aleksa then allowed the group an opportunity to reflect on what ways fasting in this American context might be different than fasting in a predominantly Orthodox country.  The group identified a number of different challenges unique to their American setting, including the predominance of non-Lenten options, the differing understanding of the Fast throughout various generations of Orthodox, the ‘abnormality’ of the fast to the average American friend or peer, and the ever-present ‘work’ that often pervades all aspects of life.

Before considering how we, as Orthodox, might face these issues, Fr Aleksa transitioned the discussion into a journey through the development of fasting.  Looking at the Old and New Testament, the group identified the various ways in which the fast is utilized throughout the Bible. They then identified how the early church came to outline the fasting rules as we have them today. In a fun and oft-surprising exercise, the group tried to identify the rules as precisely as possible – as well as all the fasting and non-fasting days.

The conversation then turned to other aspects of the fast by looking at various quotes of the Fathers.  As they discussed the wisdom of the early church, workshop participants reflected on ways in which the ‘fast’ was much deeper than food and rule alone. The talk culminated in the powerful words of St. Nikolai of Zica from Prayers by the Lake:

Fasting makes my body thinner, so that what remains can more easily shine with the spirit. While waiting for You, I wish neither to nourish myself with blood nor take life – so that the animals may sense the joy of my expectation.  But truly, abstaining from food will not save me.  Even if I were to eat only sand from the lake, You would not come to me, unless the fasting penetrated deeper into my soul.

After a short break, the group then synthesized all their workshop efforts in a challenging exercise.  After breaking off into three groups, each team was given two real-life scenarios wherein their understanding of the ‘fast’ was put into a direct encounter with real-life in America. Each scenario offered a situation in which the participants had to respond to an encounter, or question from a peer, that dealt directly with the fast.

How would participants handle a friend ordering them non-Lenten food?  What would they do if a well-meaning young person began fasting to the detriment of his health and body?  How might they respond to an accusation that fasting is nothing more than a ‘work’ and that our ‘works’ don’t get us to heaven?  What if they tried to fast with a child, grandchild, niece or nephew – and the child was not interested?

The groups formulated answers to their scenarios and presented those answers to the larger group. During each presentation, participants engaged in a lively discussion of the many ways to approach each scenario.  The day ended with fellowship that lasted far beyond the scheduled conclusion as participants stayed to enjoy their light meal and continue their lively discussion.

The Fourth Sunday of Great Lent

It was with great joy that the community of St. George in North Canton celebrated the fourth Sunday of Great Lent. Immediately prior to Divine Liturgy, long-time member and faithful parishioner Denice Resanovich was formally received in the Orthodox Faith. In the presence of family and friends, she affirmed her faith and entered into communion with Orthodox Christians throughout the world.

Joining the parish for service that day were a group of teens from the United Church of Christ in Massillon, Ohio. The students, with two chaperones, observed the Divine Liturgy and experienced their first service in an Orthodox Church. As a special treat to the guests, Fr. Aleksa engaged in a 40-minute question and answer session. The students bravely asked a series of questions including, “what are icons and how do we use them?”, “who can take communion? Is it wine or grape juice? Do you distribute it to everyone?”, “why is the church built the way it is?”, and many more.

In all his answers, Fr. Aleksa continually stressed that the Liturgical life of the church, including our art and architecture, manifest a particular understanding – “God is with us.” More specifically, however, Fr. Aleksa linked the Liturgical life and experience of the church to the very Kingdom of God itself, and he described our liturgical experience as immersive in terms of our senses, thoughts, and prayers. The teens and their chaperones were wonderful guests with many fantastic questions. Parishioners from the St. George parish also stayed in church to learn.

Later that evening, Fr. Aleksa travelled to Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church on Racoon Rd in Youngstown, Ohio where the priests of the Serbian Eastern Diocese Cleveland Deanery gathered for Lenten Vespers. This service was unique, however, in that it was a Pan-Orthodox gathering, bringing together clergy from the Serbian Eastern Diocese as well as clergy from the Youngstown Orthodox Clergy Brotherhood. In front of a completely full congregation, the clergy prayerful moved from the light-colored vestments donned for Sunday’s resurrectional service and back into the royal-purple reserved for solemn Lenten prayers. Following the dismissal, all in attendance gathered for a wonderful meal in the parish hall.

Fr. Aleksa Pavichevich was the scheduled speaker for the evening, and he offered an interactive seminar presentation based on the theme, “Forgiveness: A Miracle”. Beginning with a powerful story of forgiveness plucked from the horrific and tragic shootings in Charleston, South Carolina, Fr Aleksa discussed the ways in which we avoid seeking true forgiveness, and transitioned into various methods by which we can learn to forgive. The presentation was steeped in Scripture, and those in attendance were given paper and pencil and asked to write responses throughout. The questions and answer session afterwards lasted more than an hour, with faithful and clergy alike commenting on the topic and asking Fr Aleksa a variety of questions.

In addition to approximately 200 faithful, 15 clergy were present for Vespers, representing 7 different Orthodox Christian jurisdictions: Fr. Basil Duesenberry, OCA – Bulgarian Diocese; Fr. Andrew Goal, Ukrainian Orthodox Church; Fr. Michale Lillie – Russian Orthodox Church in the United States of America; Rev. Deacon David Gemmel , OCA – Diocese of the Midwest; Fr. Thomas Constantine, GOA; Fr. Daniel Rohan, Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese; Fr. John Harvey, Ukrainian Orthodox Church; Very Rev. Protopresbyter-Stavrophor Vladimir Demsuk; Ven. Protosindjel Sava (Medakovic); Very Rev. Protopresbyter Milan Pajic; Rev. Presbyter Aleksa Pavichevich; Rev. Presbyter Bosko Stojanovic; Rev. Presbyter Vedran Grabic; Rev. Deacon Zeljko Jurosevic; and host-priest, Rev. Presbyter Dragan Goronijc the Dean of the Cleveland Deanery.

The Third Sunday of Great Lent

On Sunday, March 19th, the parishioners of St. George Serbian Orthodox Church gathered for Divine Liturgy on the third Sunday of Great Lent, the Sunday dedicated to the Holy Cross. The precious and life-giving cross utilized for this day was the blessing cross used by the Very Rev. Protopresbyter-Stavrophor +Slobodan Zivodinovic, set in a frame with a piece of fabric from his purple, Lenten vestment set. The cross was adorned with flowers by KSS president, and Church School Pre-K teacher, Kathy Tobias.

The day was marked by a special occasion – young Steward and altar server Nikolai Radonjich read the Epistle for the first time during Divine Liturgy.  With a loud and clear voice, he proclaimed the message of St. Paul to the Hebrews to the attentive ears of the entire congregation.

During the Divine Liturgy, Fr. Aleksa’s sermon honed in on the human tendency to choose the easiest path forward, following the ‘path of least resistance’. That path, as he offered to the faithful gathered, leads us to spiritual death when we choose the ‘easy’ path of the passions over the challenging call to pick our cross and follow Christ.

Fr Aleksa reminded those gathered that, “True freedom is only found in Christ who looses the grip that the Passions have over us; he strips the sins that would lead us to death of their lasting power.  That is the freedom that the Cross of our Lord offers.  By following Christ and carrying our cross we are free… free to live a life that heads somewhere new – not into the damp, cold earth, but into the warm radiance of our lasting life with God.  And the cold earth is certainly the easier path – we’re all marching there anyway, like a raindrop feeling the pull of gravity from a high mountaintop and into the valley below.  The path of light, joy, and of radiance is one that is fraught with difficult choices.”

Immediately following the service, a 40-day Panakhida was held for the departed handmaiden of God +Mildred “Boots” Frey.  “Boots” was a beloved parishioner, choir member, and dedicated servant of her Church.  The family hosted a Lenten luncheon, allowing the community an opportunity to break-bread in fellowship, in honor of her memory.



Pilgrimage to New York City

On Thursday, March 9th, parishioners from St George Serbian Orthodox Church in North Canton traveled to New York City for their second-annual Lenten Pilgrimage. The travelers began their experience with a visit to the Cloisters Museum, part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The Cloisters is a medieval monastery transferred to New York City and, since its re-assembly, houses an incredible collection of medieval art, as well as Christian icons, paintings and artifacts. During the visit, Fr. Aleksa pulled aside the four youngest pilgrims and asked them to discuss the icon of the Nativity.  Together, they compared and contrasted a western iconographic depiction of the Feast of the Nativity with the icon of the Nativity with which the children were familiar.

Later in the afternoon, the pilgrims visited St. Vladimir’s Seminary where they were warmly greeted by Matushka Robyn Hatrack, the Events, Alumni, and Hospitality Director.  She escorted them to the seminary chapel for their seminar presentation offered by the Very Reverend Alexander Rentel, Director of the Master of Divinity Program, Ecclesiarch, Assistant Professor of Canon Law and Byzantine Studies, The John and Paraskeva Skvir Lecturer in Practical Theology.

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Sunday of Orthodoxy in Canton

The community of St George Serbian Orthodox Church celebrated the Triumph of Orthodoxy on the first Sunday of Great Lent, March 5, 2017.  The day began with a church full of faithful Christians gathered for Holy Divine Liturgy.  During the service, Fr Aleksa offered a sermon on the challenge of remaining true to our Orthodoxy in the midst of this busy and distracted world. Through all the peripheral noise, however, he reminded us that the voice of our Lord Jesus Christ calls out to us saying, “Follow me.”

Near the end of service, all in attendance immediately put the words of the Gospel into direct action as they answered the call to “follow.”  Lined up in joyous procession, the community followed the Gospel, carried by Fr Aleksa, around the church. With icons in hand, those present listened to, or sang, the troparion of the “Triumph of Orthodoxy”:

We venerate Your most pure image, O Good One, and ask forgiveness of our transgressions, O Christ God. Of Your own will You were pleased to ascend the Cross in the flesh to deliver Your creatures from bondage to the enemy. Therefore with thanksgiving we cry aloud to You: You have filled all with joy, O our Savior, by coming to save the world.

After reading the Synodicon and Creed, parishioners once again entered the church for dismissal.

During the evening of the Sunday of Orthodoxy, St George Serbian Orthodox Church once again hosted a Pan-Orthodox gathering. With faithful from all over Stark County, the community realized our Orthodox unity in prayer.  The choir, under the direction of Stephen Winovich, sang hymns derived from the chant traditions of many of the jurisdictions present, and the stichera at “Lord I Call” were offered by a local Greek cantor, George Rafilitis.

The evening’s presentation was offered by the Very Rev. Dr. Daniel Rogich, a homegrown member of the St. George parish who now tends to the flock of the nearby Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church.  Fr. Dan offered a thought provoking evaluation of Orthodoxy in America over the last 100 years, offering us a “grade” in five distinct areas, including our personal piety, our sense of missions, liturgical life and participation, and our educational efforts. The inspiring talk left those in attendance with a desire to go out into the world and strive for improvement!

After the seminar, Fr. Aleksa welcomed all those present, including the following nine participating, guest clergy:  Fr. Dan Rogich and Fr. Dn. Labib Bardawil, Holy Trinity (GOA) in Canton; Fr. Nick Gamvas, St. Haralambos (GOA) in Canton; Fr. Michael Corbin and Fr. Basil Shaheen of St. George Antiochian in Canton; Fr. Spiro Keyhays and Fr. Dn. Orestes Varonis of St. George (GOA) in Massillon; Fr Stacey Richter of Holy Assumption (OCA) in Canton; and Fr. Ionel Satnoianu, St George Romanian in Canton.

The day concluded with a meal and fellowship at the St. George Event Center. Faithful from almost every Stark County Orthodox community gathered in a joyful realization, both liturgically and socially, that we are all part of one body – regardless of the ethnic heritage that underlies the foundation and traditions of our individual communities.

Parish Community Begins Lenten Journey

On Cheesefare Sunday, the St George Community gathered in the spirit of forgiveness as they began to enter the holy days of the Great Fast. During the service, Fr Aleksa offered words on our journey to match our ‘spirit’ to our ‘actions’ – and that is the ‘toil’ we undertake during Great Lent. 

This year, at the end of Divine Liturgy, Fr Aleksa offered the prayer to be read at the start of the Great and Holy Fast.  This was a welcomed change for the community as few were able to be present for that prayer during the Lenten Vespers service offered on Cheesefare Sunday.

The community also gathered around their 2017 Parish Council in prayer and support as they received their blessing to undertake the great work ahead of them in the calendar year.  Fr Aleksa extended the blessing to all those present, reminding the community that although they have elected a Board to lead the good-work of the parish – the Board requires the loving support of the entire community to better ensure success in that endeavor.

May God bless the duly-elected servants of the St George community in 2017:

President: Nick Pribich

Vice President:  Vicki Becerruchi

Treasurer:  Don Demor

Financial Secretary: Dwight Decker

Recording Secretary: Paula Weaver

Corresponding Secretary: Lanny Hawkings

Board Members:  Mike Babics, JoAnn Breedlove, Mark Resanovich, Maxwell Sherer, Gary Trbovich

St Sava Celebration 2017

16266279_565289753641793_6323506982455465740_n On Sunday, January 29th, the children of St George Serbian Orthodox Church hosted their annual St Sava Celebration. Under the leadership of church school teachers Svetlana McCully, Rajko Radonjich, and Kathy Tobias, the children prepared a show that not only entertained the audience, but also educated them!

Starting with our preschool class, our youngest students crossed themselves, said the Lord’s Prayer, and sang B-I-B-L-E.  The primary grades followed up by going through lessons from Scripture, including the Beatitudes.  The final performance was by the middle school students – a ‘reader’s play’ of the life of St Sava.

As is customary at our parish, the children then had an opportunity to share their unique talents and gifts with the audience.  Featured performers were Lazar Pavichevich on violin, Sophia Pavichevich on harp, Addy Tompot performing an amazing dance routine, and Luka Kraguljac on electric guitar.

Thanks to Jasminka Kraguljac who led the kitchen crew for the event, and for all the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and community members that came out to support the hard work of our children and our teachers.

Lenten Pilgrimage: Journey to New York

svs2017With the blessing of His Grace Bishop Irinej, our St George community will embark on our 2nd annual spiritually uplifting pilgrimage to St Vladimir’s Seminary during the season of Great Lent 2017.

This year’s event will take what was wonderful about last year and improve upon it – Fr Aleksa, working in conjunction with the new Director of Hospitality and Alumni Relations, Matushka Robyn Hatrack, have planned a wonderful visit to St Vladimir’s Seminary.

The day will begin with a visit to the St Vladimir’s Seminary Press Bookstore followed by a campus tour hosted by Deacon Larry Soper and Sister Margarite.  We will gather at Three Hierarchs Chapel for a Panakhida (Parastos) at 5pm, after which our group will enjoy a meal at the seminary refectory prior to a wonderful reflection by Fr Alexander Rental (Canon Law, Church History).  Fr Alexander will explore the role of Repentance in our lives – a theme that we explore, liturgically, in-depth during the Lenten season. The evening will conclude with a reception where the trip participants will have an opportunity to mingle with a number of current seminarians.

The second day will be an opportunity for members of the group to explore some of the unique cultural and Orthodox delights of New York City. Participants will go in separate directions – some to see where our immigrant fore-fathers and fore-mothers came into this country via Ellis Island;  Others will offer prayers at the site of the World Trade Center; and others will opt to visit some of the various Orthodox churches and communities in Manhattan.

Our final day will be particularly special in that our community will have an opportunity to join the St Sava Cathedral Community for Holy Hierarchical Divine Liturgy.  His Grace Irinej, newly-enthroned Bishop of Eastern America, along with concelebrants Very Rev Stavrophor Dr Zivojin Jakovljevic, Very Rev Vladislav Radujkevic and Rev Aleksa Pavichevich, will serve together – and our St George Parish will offer a visible show of support for the suffering, yet strong, Serbian community in New York City.

Download a flier and itinerary for more details!

Please be sure to fill out an online registration form if you are planning on joining this pilgrimage:


Christmas Celebrations 2017

image-04Beginning with Badnji Dan (Christmas Eve Day), the community of St George Serbian Orthodox Church reveled in the joy of the newborn Savior Jesus Christ.  Festivities began with the reading of the Royal Hours followed immediately by the Vesperal Divine Liturgy of St Basil the Great.

Later in the evening, the community gathered in great numbers to celebrate the Nativity Vigil service (Badnje Vece/Christmas Eve). In a church building filled near-capacity, the parishioners gathered in prayer and festive song. The service concluded with the reading of our newly-enthroned Bishop Irinej’s Christmas message to the faithful of our diocese.

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